(adapted from a Nov 2006 article I wrote that spoke specifically in software terms, but now refers to problems in a more general context)
Problems are not a bad thing. Really, they are not.
They do exist and no-one can or should deny that they do not. However, hide them from everyone who cares about what you’re doing and you will make them suspicious. In life there is very little perfection, only progression.
Hide flaws and faults with one cover-up lie then forces another one, which turns into more lies… ad nauseam.
You must quit the fear and use problems to your advantage. They are a very visible indication that there is a continuous stream of positive activity surrounding what you do.
If you can fix problems quicker: great. If you can throw in a measure of new things while doing so then you begin to really play to the audience.
I cannot over emphasize that you have to give those on the receiving end of what you are creating detail of what is here now and a vision of what is to come. You don’t need to make any promises; simply build an expectation of what is ahead. Your ass doesn’t necessarily have to go on the proverbial line for everything you say, though it would be fantastic if you could back up words with action – as this leads to credibility and thereafter belief from the very people you are hoping will invest their attention in what you create.
The only sure way to demonstrate action is to expose in some detail the activities you are undertaking and the progress you are making with each one. Not everyone will be interested in the detail. However, it is visible and not hidden action which is important to humans. We are all naturally suspicious creatures and a perception of full disclosure of detail relating to anything we are interested satisfies our curiosity and allows us to delve deeper if we wish. It doesn‚Äôt mean that we will dig. Fine granular reviews as routine, even in tightly controlled industries, seldom happens in the business world.
However, with perceived visibility comes input too; mostly opinion, advice and priority. If you are faced with a long list of tasks, making these visible to the target audience will invoke feedback (especially if it’s not in their favor) and ultimately more focused action through volunteered input. The Internet is the perfect medium for this.
The natural problem discovery reaction for most is to hide the details and implications of what the fault is, log it in a private list somewhere and fix it before anyone finds out. Instinctively we feel that it is better for a customer or user not to know about an issue than to be alerted and concerned. This also buys the developers or creators time to create a fix before the actual problem is exposed. The hope is that the end user will never see the problem.
If a user has discovered the fault, send the relationship guys in to perform a smoke an mirrors magic act until such time as it is fixed and things have moved on. Pretend then to be responsible and customer-friendly.
If the problem were a big scary monster and the customer a child, then this would all make sense. For grown ups; problems and faults are a fact of life and must be handled in a responsible and orderly manner.
If someone can‚Äôt handle the truth and impact of bugs then they are a proverbial child and should be handled as such until they evolve into an adult. This may come across as harsh, however true to almost every inexperienced business.
If a business or personal hides, disguises or downplays problems and does not use them as tools of progression or mediums for input and involvement; then a problem remains a big scary monster that will drive fear and panic into all who come near it. Including users of what you’re pushing. Most of whom have alternative options. Also known as your competitors.
As a supplier, artist, business person or value generator you have to act responsibly with faults that have either been found (internally) or exposed (externally). I urge you to not hide these but expose them to your advantage. Nay, use them as points of creation to incite discussion and debate on not just the fix to the immediate issue but to collectively encompass what the fault exposes and organically shape the resultant solution to mutual benefit for all involved.
One person’s critical problem may be insignificant to others who use the product. Conversely, users may be finding faults that the creators never could. Interaction, disclosure, tracking and creativity all contribute to a positive, inclusive and relevant output.
To re-iterate a previous assertion: ensure that the front-end (sales, account management), back-end (support, development, planning) and customers/users interact regularly and with a single goal.
Problems are not bad. They’re simply a step towards perfection.